Originally Posted by stephanieleah
Wow thanks for the advice. I just checked my tap water (one test for untreated tap water and one test for tap water treated with Aqua Plus). By the way I'm using the API test kit. They both measured almost 1ppm of ammonia! Disturbing. So then I checked my tank again and it's almost zero! Now I'm convinced my tank is cycled. I was just waiting for that last budge for the ammonia to go down to zero. I didn't test the others so I wonder if the nitrates and nitrite is stable.
In response to your question (Byron) I started testing the water when I bought the pleco about three weeks ago. At that point all levels were zero. Then I added skirts and took out the pleco, and the nitrate slowly started rising (without an ammonia spike...probably because I added live bacteria at the same time I added the skirts?).
I just can't believe I almost did a water change and my new water has quadruple the ammonia that was in the tank.
Should I, then, wait on a water change until my nitrates level goes up to make sure there are enough bacteria to "fix" the ammonia in my tap water? Or just go buy water from the water store?
This is good, and it's easy to resolve. First, the tap water is the ammonia source, and as subsequent posts from Angel have indicated, this is common in many areas, some far worse than 1ppm believe me. The answer is to use a good water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia. I just checked their website, and Nutrafin's Aqua Plus does not say it detoxifies ammonia, so I'll recommend Prime as a good one, but there are some others. Just make sure it removes/detoxifies chlorine, chloramine and ammonia, plus heavy metals [most do this latter if they do the others]. Not all water conditioners detoxify ammonia, my present one doesn't but I don't have ammonia in my tap water. Using one of these conditioners will solve the ammonia issue as far as fish health is concerned.
You will still get an ammonia reading because Prime and the others (there may be one or two that work differently) detoxify ammonia by changing it to ammonium which is basically harmless to fish, and plants need ammonium. At an acidic pH, ammonia automatically changes to ammonium, but in basic (pH above 7) water it remains ammonia; Prime and such change it to ammonium.
Most test kits read ammonia and ammonium as "ammonia" so you may still get a reading for ammonia when using Prime or whatever. Not a problem.
I mentioned plants, you have plants and they must have ammonium. In basic water they have the ability to convert ammonia (which is highly toxic to plants as well as fish) to ammonium. It is also believed they may convert nitrite back to ammonium as well. They can also use nitrate, by converting it back to ammonium, but this is more complicated so they seem to prefer using the ammonia/ammonium and possibly nitrite before nitrate. This is why I said that in a planted tank there will be no cycling issues. The plants grab the ammonia/ammonium from the first, and very little is left provided the plants are numerous and the fish are not overloading the tank. While I recommend Prime or similar, I also don't think you will have much of an issue now with a pwc, just don't overdo it (change 30%) because the plants will help you in this. Once you get Prime or whichever, do 40-50% weekly.
In a biologically established planted tank, your nitrates will always be under 20ppm unless something occurs to upset the biological balance (excessive overfeeding, many dead fish and plants, too many fish added at once, etc). My aquaria are heavily planted and heavily stocked with fish and the nitrate is always 5-10ppm, aqnd closer to 5 than 10.